TIPP CITY — With a tied vote due to an absent city council member, Tipp City council failed to pass legislation designating tobacco-free zones, but voted 5-1 in favor of joining a lawsuit against the state.
Mayor Pat Hale was absent from Monday night’s meeting, when council also voted on funding for Tipp Monroe Community Services.
On a request from the Parks Board, council considered amendments to the city’s code concerning public lands and parks that would designate certain areas as tobacco-free zones. The changes would have prohibited smoking, chewing or vaping tobacco in city-governed areas that are used for recreation.
The ordinance also outlined enforcement for the prohibition, first asking the individual to comply with the ordinance, removing individuals from the property for failure to comply and then issuing citations for any further offense.
“It’s a movement for the general health and welfare of individuals who are using the parks,” City Manager Tim Eggleston said, noting that many communities throughout the country have designated their parks as tobacco-free zones.
Eggleston added that he and the law director worked to make the ordinance as “innocuous as possible,” noting that issuing a citation is the last resort.
“I’m not a smoker, but I am a liberty guy,” councilman Tom Merritt said. Merritt voted against the ordinance. “I am not as offended by someone smoking as I am by restricting someone’s right to do it through legislation like this.”
Councilman John Kessler, said that he tries to stand away from others when smoking, adding, “it’s a courtesy thing.” Kessler voted in favor of prohibiting tobacco use in the parks.
Councilwoman Carrie Arblaster, who has two children with asthma, previously sponsored the ordinance.
“It’s not an anti-smoker thing at all, I think it’s just about looking at public spaces and deciding what we want those to be,” she said. “I think keeping them as healthy as we can is the goal, at least from my perspective. I understand the liberty argument, for sure.”
She noted that the city places restrictions on other things people can do in the interest of public safety, including restrictions on where people can drink in public.
Council did vote in favor of joining a coalition of other communities in a lawsuit against the State of Ohio.
The lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of a provision in next year’s state budget that would allow businesses to file income taxes with the state instead of a local municipality. Many cities claim that this violates the municipal home rule provided by the Ohio Constitution.
Arblaster said she understands the home rule argument, but that she also understands that filing locally can be challenging for businesses.
“I do think that with this particular issue, we’ve had consistent outcry from our business community about the difficulty they have filing taxes with local municipalities,” she said. She added that House Bill 49’s provision on business income taxes is a fair compromise.
She noted that it only affects business net profits and that using the state’s filing gateway is not mandatory for businesses.
“I have issues with the state hinting or implying that we will lose funding if we do not play ball with them,” Kessler said.
Council President Joe Gibson said he sees the provision as an erosion of municipal home rule.
The resolution authorizes the city to retain the law firm of Frost Brown Todd as special counsel for the coalition, which also includes West Milton and Covington in Miami County.
Council also approved funding for Tipp Monroe Community Services, although a proposed amendment to increase funding by $500 was voted down. The resolution authorized the renewal of the city’s recreational programs contract with TMCS for $17,700.
Kessler proposed adding $500, bringing the total to $18,200, which was not approved by council.
In other business, council approved the final plan for the Fieldstone Place subdivision and authorized the annexation of about 1.2 acres of land from Monroe Township in order to allow Dave Arbogast to add a car wash to the auto dealership. The proposed location of the car wash straddles the current corporate limits.